Combining forces: Why marketers mustn't consider mobile in isolation

Tim Maytom

Ian Reynolds, managing director of KBH On-Train Media, discusses how mobile can work in concert with other channels for a more effective customer journey.

A slew of recent data has provided fresh evidence of what we arguably already know: today’s consumer is very much a mobile consumer.

Media agency Zenith’s latest Media Consumption Forecasts predict there is no stopping mobile’s growth charge, with the channel expanding to account for 28 per cent of all media usage by 2020.

For marketers, that means an increasing share of ad spend is being directed to mobile across both display and search. Around one in every four advertising pounds is now spent on mobile in the UK, and in its latest monthly Global Ad Trends report WARC indicates that mobile will account for 62.4 per cent of the $100.5bn (£75.3bn) search advertising market in 2018, representing a rise of 11 per cent year-on-year.

The rise of mobile
While mobile’s upwards trajectory is not in doubt, the figures in themselves do not necessarily give a clear indication of how the medium is being used, and the picture here is far from straightforward. In tandem with the rise of mobile, media consumption habits are shifting to become ever more fluid, and today there is far greater interaction and meshing between platforms, channels and devices. Rather than existing in glorious isolation, mobile is often at the centre of multi-layered campaigns that engage consumers across platforms and at multiple touchpoints during their daily lives.

As Zenith points out, this means the idea of context and the consumer’s ‘mindset’ are growing in importance as a means to maximise message impact. Rather than considering just the strengths of a single channel, marketers have an opportunity to optimise the delivery of their message across channels at a time and place where consumers are most receptive.

KBH On-Train Media’s own research reinforces the importance of this contextual approach for brands looking to target the valuable commuter demographic. The advertising environment across the UK rail network retains the brand-building qualities of ‘classic’ Out-of-Home (OOH) but mobile-equipped commuters are increasingly being driven down the route of digital activation.

Connected commuter
As it stands today, mobile use has become embedded among almost all commuters, with 88 per cent using their smartphone during an average journey. Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) use their phone for between 50 per cent and 100 per cent of their journey, and 33 per cent check their device as much as every couple of minutes.

This trend is only set to accelerate with the expansion of high-speed on-board Wi-Fi services. And further to this, in its 5G Strategy announced in January this year, the Government’s Digital Minister Matt Hancock stated that speeds of around 1 Gigabit Per Second (Gbps) would be achievable for rail commuters by 2025, opening up the door to simultaneous streaming of rich media content, such as video, for hundreds of passengers.

The research also indicates that commuters are smart about how they use their travelling time, intentionally using it to catch up on necessary tasks and making purchases via their phones. With growing numbers of retailers investing in properly mobile-optimised sites and apps, this has led to a boom in the business of ‘commuter commerce’.

Indeed, over a quarter (26 per cent) of London’s train commuters are browsing, shopping and spending via their mobile devices during the journey to and from work every day, with purchases spanning a diverse range of items from clothing and groceries to cars and holidays as well as sports equipment and luxury goods.

Understanding context
It is here where mobile, search and Out-of-Home (OOH) are combining to complement each other. Advertising within the train environment acts as a trigger for brands, driving immediate on-phone consideration and also even purchase, with a third (33 per cent) of rail travellers claiming to have bought something as a direct result of seeing advertising on the train - an increase of 38 per cent since 2015. In addition, of the 94 per cent of respondents who noticed the advertising on-train, 39 per cent subsequently talked to someone about products or services they saw advertised and 56 per cent went on to do further research.

For advertisers, maximising this opportunity is a case of understanding the context of this environment and the mindset of commuters. Our research shows that the daily journey to and from the office is, perhaps surprisingly, a largely positive experience, and represents one of the more relaxed parts of a consumer’s day.

Delving deeper into the insight, this makes complete sense: it is a familiar environment for commuters who, once they have taken a seat, have a clear amount of time that is theirs to do with as they wish. Engaging with a variety of media sources is regularly top of the agenda, and mobile is often the place where those activities start.

So, while the headline figures are understandably about the growth of mobile – both in terms of the time consumers spend with the medium and the increasing allocation of advertising investment - it’s clear that brands must adopt a strategy across all devices and channels. Because when it comes to maximising the mobile opportunity, context is everything.

Ian Reynolds is managing director at KBH On-Train Media